Thursday, January 18, 2007

BEGAN

BEGAN
Over the next 4 days, I will be posting a blog that is tied together. It is, perhaps, too long for one blog so I am breaking it into 4 peices. Please keep in mind that these 4 blogs in particular, are purely specualtion. The stories come from church history, Fox Book of Martyrs, a book called Jesus Freaks, and my own memories. Enjoy, and please leave me a comment on what you think!! Thanks, Jim

Acts 1:1
"In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach"

From time to time, I am able to purchase new CD's. Unfortunately I can't do it as often as I would like to, there are so many out there I wish I owned. Last week, I purchased a new 2 CD worship set. There are many songs I enjoy, but one of my favorites it "He Who Began A Good Work In You." I guess that the thought of Christ starting and faithfully completing a work in me is very reassuring. Perhaps that is why one particular word really stands out to me in the first verse of Acts 1. The word "began" What is it about that word that stands out to me? I suppose it is the incompleteness of it, the fact that it is simply a starting point. His work didn't end with the disciples, it simply started, and the best part is, it continues today. It is a work in progress, and we have God's own assurance that He will carry it on to completion. Have you ever seen an incomplete project? It leaves you wondering what might have been.

It was almost 20 years ago that Pam and I were married. At that time, we lived in Baltimore Maryland. Six and seven times a week I would hop in my Ford pickup and make the trip down to Washington D.C. to work. Along the way each day, I passed a very interesting sight. I'm not sure whether it was an off ramp or an on ramp or something else. The only thing that was clear to me was that it was an incomplete project. It inclined up into the sky perhaps 50 feet or more and just ended. You could see pieces of rebar at the end of the ramp. Initially I thought it was simply a work in progress, but as I looked around, I saw no construction equipment, no workers on a break, no supplies waiting for the craftsman's skilled hands, nothing. We lived in the area for two years plus, and never once did I see any progress made. It wasn't a work in progress, it was a job that would never be completed. Incomplete jobs are bad enough, but it's even worse when the unfinished project clearly declares to all who pass by it, the vain effort of the workers.

Oh, but things are different with us. With on eye toward the future, Luke penned the word "began." Moved by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Luke dipped his quill into the inkwell and slowly and deliberately inscribed 5 letters on the parchment, B E G A N. I wondered if he paused for a moment, closed his eyes and tried to imagine what lay ahead? One thing was for sure, no matter how vivid his imagination, it fell far short of what lay ahead. Only God Himself could have come up with all that would take place as a result of that work which Christ "began" Perhaps as Luke wrote the letter "b", God's mind would be drawn to broken shackles, both literally and figuratively. Was His mind thinking ahead to Thomas Hawkins? Thomas Hawkins, shivering in the cold dark dungeon, shackles on his hands and feet because he refused to denounce his faith in Christ. This was to be his last night on earth. On this night, he was not alone. Three visitors huddled with him, oddly enough, the ones who came to give comfort received it. As they wept at the thought of their friend being consumed by the flames, his eyes welled up as well, not so much for what lay ahead for him. His tears were for his companions. The way things were going, soon they would feel the heat of the flame as well. They understood that probability as well; "Thomas" questioned one of his friends. "We are afraid." Then came a very strange request. "Soon we will follow you. We can do so without fear if you can give us some sort of sign from the flames. Something that would tell us it was worth it and that you are not alone in the flames." Together they came up with a plan. The assurance would come when Thomas raised his hands above his head and clapped them. They spent some time together in prayer before they had to leave. The next day, as they watched Thomas being led to the stake, they realized the problem with their plan. His hands were tied. They were slightly reassured when his hands were untied at the stake. Their hopes soon faded when his back was pushed against the stake, his hands pulled behind it and tied together again. They would never know whether or not it was worth it, for it would be impossible to clap his hands.

As the flames grew, their hearts sank. As his flesh began to melt, their tears began to flow. With anguished hearts, they turned to walk away. As they slowly pushed their ways through the crowd, the shouts changed to gasps. Wondering what was happening, his friends turned to look one last time. What they saw astonished them. High above his head, Thomas raised his hands. By now they were nothing more than stumps. With his chin lifted heavenward, he began to clap them together. It was as if he were boldly proclaiming to his friends that it was worth it. Was God's mind drawn to Thomas, who would never again experience bondage, as Luke wrote the letter "b?"

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